DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Detroit Mayor Dave Bing proposed a $1 billion budget Friday that features further cuts, as well as efforts to preserve essential services for the city that’s under state oversight.
Bing presented the city’s fiscal year 2013-14 budget to the City Council, a plan that includes a $4 million reduction for that nine-member body. Council members criticized Bing’s recommendations that include allowing only one personal aide per member; they currently have between four and eight.
Although Bing claims the staffing levels are in line with comparably sized cities, City Council members are upset.
Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins said most have smaller populations than Detroit and more council members.
“It’s irresponsible for us to be moving forward into uncharted territory. The problem we constantly have (is) there are no negotiations with this body. … It can’t just be one-sided,” Jenkins said.
“It would absolutely cause, either a backlog of work — or for people to come to the table and vote blindly,” she said.
Council Member Ken Cockrell said he’d like to see the spotlight steered away from City Council — using a pop culture reference in making his point:
“One of my favorite shows is Mad Men, and one of the things that the main character on that show, Don Draper, always says is, ‘If you don’t like what people are saying about you, change the conversation,'” Cockrell said.
“I think we need to change the conversation about the city’s budget ,because, for the past week, the conversion really had been focused on City Council’s budget,” he said.
Cockrell pointed out that Council represents less than one percent of the general fund budget. “So the conversation really needs to be changed from City Council to the global budget picture,” Cockrell said.
Councilman Andre Spivey said cuts should be as equal as possible among departments. Bing replied that significant cuts have been made to the executive branch in previous years.
The mayor’s proposal also calls for filling about 40 emergency medical services positions, but leaves unfilled about 100 other vacancies across departments, including police. He said he proposed keeping funding levels for public safety, transportation, public lighting and other basic services as close to current budget levels as possible.
User fees for licensing and other services would be increased between 15 and 50 percent to help raise revenues.
Last month, the state hired bankruptcy lawyer and turnaround specialist Kevyn Orr to be Detroit’s emergency manager, which gives him control over the city’s finances and gives him final say over the budget recommendations.
Detroit’s budget deficit is about $327 million, which Bing said could increase to $380 million by June. The city has more than $14 billion in long-term debt.
Council members have expressed concerns about consultants hired by the city for various purposes. Bing said his administration will publish a monthly report detailing their activities with an eye toward accountability and “holding their feet to the fire.”
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